One of the factoids one often encounters is the idea that “socialism” invariably means state ownership, and that that is the only alternative to profit-driven capitalism. There are, in fact, various kinds of free-enterprise socialism as well.
The announcement that Labour will pump resources into the development of the co-operative movement if it is returned to power in the general election is to be welcomed. If the pledge is honoured the potential is enormous.
To appreciate the significance, we can learn from the history of co-ops in Britain over the last 170 years. It reveals not only the emergence of an unprecedented force for social change through worker ownership and control, but also the extent to which capitalist society in Britain felt challenged by such a movement.
Hat-tip to Nouslife: The importance of co-operatives.
More information is available on a blog devoted to Mutual Money.
In South Africa most of the building societies, and certainly all of the big ones, went commercial more than 20 years ago. They would have made good partners for the ANC’s hastily-abandoned Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP), the only remnant of which is the pejorative “RDP houses” for a sub-standard jerry-built dwelling, built by commercial builders who have cut corners in construction to increase their profits.
Mutual life insurance cooperatives followed the building societies in demutualising a few years later, one of the worst being the “Old Mutual” — a deliberately deceptive name, since there is no longer anything mutual about it, and it should surely be called the “New Commercial”.